House Dems block probe on USPS surveillance

House Dems block probe on USPS surveillance
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The United States Postal Service is notorious for generally being unable to do its job particularly well. If it weren’t propped up by taxpayer money, it would have gone the way of Enron.

The USPS can’t get packages to you, can barely get mail to you, but they can do some shady stuff when it comes to tracking human beings, apparently.

And that’s an issue.

So, since people on the right appear to have been the target of that surveillance, Republicans want answers.

Unfortunately, Democrats don’t want them to have them.

House Democrats on Tuesday rejected a request from Republican lawmakers to gather more information about the alleged surveillance of conservatives and gun rights advocates by the U.S. Postal Service.

The resolution failed along party lines by a vote of 23–18 during a House Oversight and Reform Committee meeting,

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, (D-N.Y.) the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said the proposal would “do nothing to protect the First Amendment.”

The proposal was introduced by Rep. Andrew Clyde, (R-Ga.) after reports emerged back in April 2021 that the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service, known as the Internet Covert Operations Program, or iCOP, had been quietly monitoring Americans’ social media posts, including those regarding planned protests both domestically and abroad.

According to the report, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service law enforcement arm was trawling through social media sites to find posts that were “inflammatory” and then passing that information on to government agencies via bulletins.

The proposal was introduced by Rep. Andrew Clyde, (R-Ga.) after reports emerged back in April 2021 that a function within the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, known as the Internet Covert Operations Program, or iCOP, had been quietly monitoring Americans’ social media posts, including those regarding planned protests both domestically and abroad.

The USPS can’t seem to get packages to me–seriously, I’ve had a number just disappear within the postal service this year alone–but they can spend resources browsing people’s social media for information that literally has nothing to do with shipping goods or letters?

That’s not all they did. They recently obtained software designed to facilitate hacking into iPhones, which caused a lot of concern.

Then the hits just kept on coming.

Months later in September, the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-headquartered libertarian think tank obtained reports detailing iCOP’s tracking and surveillance of gun rights activists and conservative groups opposed to President Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, GOP lawmakers raised concerns over the actions of USPS while calling on Democrats to request more information regarding the postal service’s surveillance program, particularly of conservative Americans.

“I’m incredibly concerned … at the actions taken by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for potentially, allegedly targeting conservative-leaning individuals in the pro-life group, various pro-life groups or Second Amendment groups,” said Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.). “The Postal Inspection Service has a mission, and quite frankly, they are far outside of their mission if these accusations are in fact true.”

Ultimately though, Democrats rejected the move, with Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) noting that while she believes “strongly in protecting Americans’ First Amendment rights,” and is against “inappropriate surveillance of peaceful protests and other First Amendment activity,” the highly partisan resolution is “unnecessary and misdirected,” and it would do nothing to protect American’s freedom of speech.

I’m sorry, what?

It won’t protect Americans’ First Amendment rights?

This program specifically targeted people like gun rights activists, not because they represented some kind of a threat, but simply because they opposed Joe Biden’s agenda, and you don’t see this as some kind of a threat to people’s First Amendment Rights?

Really?

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. People like Maloney see things like assault weapon bans as no threat to our Second Amendment rights, so there’s no reason for them to see this as a direct threat to freedom of speech.

However, come January, things are likely to change. Republicans will have control of Congress and can begin looking into this without the interference of Democrats.

And Democrats should welcome this.

After all, do they really think this power won’t be used against their allies? Do they really think no GOP president will look at this precedent and decide to use it for their own ends?

Maloney’s comments are, at best, short-sighted.

These questions need to be answered and it really should be a bipartisan issue. The fact that it’s not is particularly telling.